Sunday, February 9, 2020

Close to the edge...

Okay, so after having the worst couple of months of my life, I finally feel some essence of myself returning. Where this blog should start is hard to know, as there is so much to say, but here goes.
After what I would consider a few rough weeks in November 2019, and a lot of pressure and change at work, which is something I'm not particularly good with, I decided that I wasn't coping too well, after noticing my raising temper and irritation, a cue that I have always had to warn me that things are about to go sour. Whether that be a severe bout of anxiety or depression is often not recognisable till it happens. So I used what I knew and was signed off work for a few weeks. Now here's where it gets really shitty, and by no means am I trying to completely put people off of using such medication, but to be aware that some of the effects do last, and that for some people, they can make life near on unbearable.
I had some therapy set up, but it was a way down the line and I wanted to get back on with my life and return to work, and felt that I was making small progress, but not enough. So, I decided to do something I have always tried to avoid and turned to medication. I had taken some Prozac as a teenager, but didn't get on with it, yet it was nothing like this.
I was prescribed Sertraline, which as most of you will know, is an SSRI antidepressant, in the same category as Prozac, but with a shorter half life. I took my first 50mg dose on Thurday 12th of December and instantly knew that something was wrong, which don't get me wrong, I was expecting. I knew that it would have a strange effect to begin with, but it was fairly drastic. I spent lots of time in the toilet and felt so dizzy I could hardly stand up. I felt as though I'd taken so many drugs and alcohol, that my mind was fried. But here's what really made me uneasy. Part of my issue, as well as anxiety and depression, is compulsions, primarily routed around hobbies, but not limited to, as I equally have an obsession with checking door handles and plug sockets. I had explained to the doctor that I set myself unrealistic daily writing word count targets, and feel as though I have to put my heart, mind and energy into all areas of my art without fail. Something that I usually use to release my frustration, was becoming a frustration in itself, because of the way my mind likes to work, so I completely understand the prescription for tablets, but after day three of taking them, I could endure the effects no more, so I stopped and so did all the things that I would consider me. My compulsions and drive seemed none existent after stopping, and I wandered the house in a zombified state, unable to do anything but become frantic and upset. I tried to convince myself it was some sort of withdrawal, but as each day passed, I felt more panicked by the lack of what to me, made me "Me." It was as if taking a few days of something, had wiped away a part of who I was. Then there was a ray of light.
Five days after stopping, on the weekend before Christmas, I seemed to bounce back. My drive returned. My ability to concentrate and my balance came back. I seemed to recover and be back to what I was before. I was so relieved. Yet it was short lived. It lasted for two days, then I was hit by a tone of bricks on Monday 23rd December. I felt like something had burnt its way inside of my head and stolen me. I was having hot sweat and sickness. I was so weak and fatigued, that I just wanted to lay on the floor. Then came the Dissociation. An experience so hard to describe to anyone. But it's as though you are constantly staring off into space, and the world around you is somehow far away or unreal, like a computer game. I'm aware that I'm real and here, but the world around me feels wrong in some indescribable way.
I couldn't rationalise, nor could I process things in the same quick way I usually can, and all thoughts of joy and pleasure were gone.
Christmas day came and with my wife, dad and step mum around me, I was hoping I'd just be able to ignore it for their sake and pretend that I was fine. But I couldn't... It beat me. The strength I've always used to battle off any dark and horrific thoughts, was not there, and that damaged part of my mind was the only thing with any strength. It broke me, and it really broke me. I had become afraid to be alone and frightened to even be awake. Yet sleep was just as bad, as I was plagued with horrific nightmares, which would wake me up, where I would then realise I was still in a nightmare. It became a vicious cycle.
Christmas evening, I went to A and E, as I could no longer endure what felt like the draining of my sanity. I really felt as though I was loosing control and I didn't trust myself anymore. I was hysterical. I was in the worst state I have ever been.
Now I've never been the most stable of people, but I've always coped. I've always had systems to manage and relied on certain ways to cope, but whatever had happened to me, because of taking Sertraline, had unarmed that fighting part of me and switched something off.
Now here we are, two months down the line and I'd love to say it all returned to how it was before, but that would be a lie. The only things that I've managed to change are by pure force, and I will always be in the knowledge that at times throughout it, I truly believed it would be easier to take my own life than endure whatever has happened to me. I even planned writing notes to those I love, telling them what they meant to me. Yet bit by bit, I've fought it. It has been the most mentally draining thing I've ever done, and it still catches me off guard sometimes, but I'm trying to fight back. Here are the things that have changed since then. My appetite has returned... I'd lost over a stone in the space of a few weeks. My sleep is still disturbed, but I try to ignore the nightmares. Then there is my mood, which has been a struggle to stabilise, but I understood I had to somehow, otherwise I wouldn't be able to continue. I had become so depressed that I hated the idea of life as it now is. So I forced myself to think of the positives. My family. My friends. Those around me that are important and mean something to me. They became my reason for fighting back. I went nearly two months without doing any of my hobbies, because it felt wrong. I tried to force myself every now and then, but it didn't feel right, it felt fake.
I've changed my diet, so that I intake everything my body needs in terms of vitamins and minerals, and am living to it strictly, in hope it will help my brain heal. I am running as much as I can, which is tough, as I've never really been one for cardio, but I know that it will help my mental state. I've seen specialists and been told that part of what I'm living with is because of the psychological trauma, and that other effects have been induced by adverse reactions to medication, which is rare apparently, but does happen. Yet it isn't often warned about, so this is my main reason for publishing this.
I am still living with the Dissociation, but have forced myself back into my hobbies and am slowly starting to enjoy and look forward to them again. I even have moments of excitement about doing something, and with time I hope I will be back to what I was. Yet this post is about more than what I've gone through. This post is for awareness. Please just be careful. I know that for a lot of people, medication is a life saver and is there to help those out of dark places, but be aware, that for some it can make the world so much darker.
I want to thank everyone that has been around me through this darkest of times. The days they've spent just sitting with me. The love they've shown me. If I didn't have such loving friends and family, or a wife that would do anything for me, I really believe I wouldn't have coped. I think without a doubt that I would have taken the drastic way out, and I would never wish that kind of mental pain on anyone.
Andrew William Gregory.   

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Damaging social media.

I'm sure there are many others in my position, where they work every spare minute they get on some kind of artistic project. I have a word count target I reach every day, and put a lot of effort and work into what I do, but sometimes it can be hard. Not because I don't want to do it, nor because I find what I do a task I must achieve. I love doing it, but it's the world of social media and the constant niggling as to why I can't seem to take it any further. As an artist, I'm sure that many of you will find that a lot of it comes down to marketing yourself correctly, and I don't really believe this to be by the means of social media as such. I think social media may aid you once you've managed to get a name for yourself, but if you're trying to get started in selling work or get a following, then I believe social media can be massively disheartening. After all, it can destroy confidence in yourself and make you believe that what you do is worth nothing. It's such a fake and unnatural world. A world where a photo of someone's coffee can get more likes than a piece of work that someone has spent weeks working on. A place littered with people clicking like buttons because they know the name, instead of appreciating the work. It becomes obsessive, trying to get people to like your work, or share your page, or even visit your website. But social media is not a reality. Any form of art and creativity is wonderful, and it matters little if people decide to like that photo of a stupid supermarket advertisement, more so than something original and special. All of you artists and creatives out there are truly special. Thoughts?
Andrew William Gregory. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Creative outlet

I've been a writer of fiction for some time now, and love nothing more than sitting down at my desk to get what's in my head, onto page. Yet I'm also a Visual creative, from paintings to film-making and photography. I have a keen passion for all forms, and my moods alter my attention. I think any creative process is magnificent, and I wonder often why people pigeon hole themselves into one category? Often there is a pressure to only focus on one form of creativity. If you're an artist, how could you possibly be a writer as well? I think there is a stigma attached to creative types dabbling in many forms of creativity, not just from the world of arts, but from public views. It's often seen as a Jack of all trades, but this is wrong. I think creativity comes in flows through the mind. One day it can be strong. The next, not so much. One day you have the need to throw up your mind onto a page and the next, express it with paint or moving images. Creativity cannot be defined by one form, but an expression of the mind, no matter how that may decide to show itself. I would like to know other's views, whether you class yourself as creative or not. Yet I think all of us are, we might just not acknowledge it. Let me know what you think?

Standing in the garden with a light above my head and a mask on, deciding what form of creativity suits my mind today